Sun 12pm-10pm (Dinner menu only)
When discussing origins of great chefs, Michigan’s upper peninsula is rarely part of the equation. Growing up in Escanaba, joining those ranks was also far from Dave Whitney’s mind. Not to say restaurant work itself was a foreign concept. He had relatives in the business, so getting an after school job as a dishwasher was no surprise. The perspective changed at the young age of 16, when he began cooking under acclaimed chef, Robin Holmes. Dave loved creating things that made people happy. Within the span of a year he had risen to the position of Sous Chef and the career path was set.
Chef Holmes recognized Dave’s talent and encouraged him along the way. This also meant that in order to grow, he would have to leave Escanaba. Dave had a family member in Ann Arbor and had heard good things about the culinary program at Washtenaw Community College. With Robin Holmes’ blessing, Dave enrolled in the program and moved to Ann Arbor.
To compliment his studies, Dave found employment at one of the local chain restaurants. True to form he excelled and quickly moved up the ladder, both at work and at WCC. He became the teaching assistant for the Front of the House program at school, and a corporate trainer for his company. Though the door was wide open, he didn’t find corporate culture very appetizing. So he decided to go down the road and give a little Italian place called Paesano a try.
Paesano provided what he was looking for. It had an interesting menu, room to grow, encouraged creativity, the dynamic Chef Isabella Nicoletti, and above all the comfortable and supportive environment created by owners Michael and Bridget Roddy. Dave took on many tasks including catering and creating specials. Even though Dave still had thoughts of becoming an executive chef, and perhaps eventually to open a restaurant of his own, he was content to be here working with Isabella.
Time moves on and things change. Dave wasn’t looking for love, but it found him right here at Paesano. Ace server Jayme Mate became Mrs. Whitney in 2008, and continues to bring her husband’s delicious food to the Paesano faithful. The most unexpected development was the departure of Chef Isabella. Losing a prominent Chef would be a devastating blow to most restaurants, but the natural successor was already in place.
Dave’s passion for old world Italian food, local ingredients and creative spirit allow him to bring a unique twist to a well-known style of cuisine. He strives to remain true to the Italian vision while incorporating local flavors. Fresh, nutritious ingredients, with full textures are a high priority. The desire is also to be inventive and pleasing to the Midwestern palate. He may not be prone to strolling out into the dining room, but you can rest assured knowing a meal was enjoyed brings a big smile to his face.